Monday, August 31, 2009

Do Not Skip Ahead

I've been having a little trouble lately reining myself in. I finished a first draft recently and there's a huge part of me that just wants to query the heck out of it, even though it's nowhere near ready for submission. I know better, and I will restrain myself, but every time a "perfect" opportunity shows up on my radar, I have to talk myself down.

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite agents opened back up for submissions on a very limited basis. And she's asking for Urban Fantasy.

And then I saw mention of a contest that looks oh so very cool.

New agents with an interest in my genre are popping up left and right.

And urban fantasy is on the rise.

Look hard enough, and "perfect" opportunities will just jump out of the woodwork at you.

Except that they're not "perfect", because my manuscript is not done. As I have to remind myself every single time I see one of these tempting blog posts or tweets or news articles, trying to query right now would be bad for me.

Why? Well, there are many, many reasons. And don't worry. I'm going to list my favorites here! (Admit it; you were worried I was just going to say that and run, weren't you? Okay, maybe you weren't, but I'm going to list them anyway.)

  • Agents and editors say it all the time. "Do not query your novel before it is finished!" I literally see someone tweet or blog about this at least once a day. Sometimes as often as ten or twelve times a day. With so many "unspoken rules" and "unseen observers" in publishing, breaking a rule that all the gatekeepers are shouting at the top of their internet lungs on a daily basis just seems like a bad idea.
  • I know, in the logical side of my brain, that my WIP isn't ready to be seen by anyone outside my critique group yet. So why would I send out a query that would just make me afraid that someone might request the manuscript? What would be my plan really? I query, and then when I get the request, I scramble and try to force myself through the revisions in the amount of time I could reasonably pass between receiving the request for a full and sending it? In today's instant gratification, technology on demand world, how much time is that really? It's not like I have the US Postal Service to blame for a delay if the agent asks me to email them the file. How much time would I really be able to buy myself then? A few hours? A day? A weekend? Not enough, no matter what kind of excuse I came up with.
  • Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I did manage to buy myself a few weeks so I could crash through the revisions process. It can be done. I've seen it done recently to marvelous success. Some people are capable of that kind of thing. I envy those people, because I am not. I know it would show in the manuscript I sent out, and then, when I got the inevitable rejection, I would always feel like I blew a great opportunity. Sure, I could revise it and requery, but I think agents and editors are probably inclined to look even more critically at a second submission. Why raise the bar for myself needlessly?
  • In business, they say "dress for the job you want". As an unpublished novelist, I don't want to put anything less than my absolute best work in front of industry professionals. I'm sure, as a newbie, I'll still make a ton of rookie mistakes. Adding an extra one that I know about just seems silly.
But knowing all of that doesn't stop me dreaming. It doesn't stop me seeing a "perfect" opportunity arise and saying to myself "Oh, if only my novel was finished, I know that would be just right for me. . . Well, they only need a query letter and the first five pages to start with. My first five pages are pretty good. Maybe I could just submit and then revise like mad crazy, just in case I make it to the next round?"

No! Stop! Do not pass Go; do not collect $200 in imagined royalties. It can be hard sometimes, letting a "perfect" opportunity pass you by, but that's the name of the game. When the manuscript is ready, there will be other opportunities out there for me, opportunities that really are perfect. Until then, though, I just have to keep restraining myself, reminding myself.

Do not skip ahead.

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